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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander burns patients have the highest burn injury rates in all Australia but lack appropriate support services, according to researchers.

Researchers from Flinders University, George Institute for Global Health and UNSW Sydney are urgently calling for culturally safe and holistic care to be factored into hospital treatment and post-injury care for the large number of people from remote communities presenting with serious burns, particularly infants and children and their carers and parents.

With burn injuries among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at least double the rate of other children in Australia, the researchers interviewed 76 clinicians in multidisciplinary burn teams around Australia about their burn care for their families.

Burns care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families in Australia is still predominantly informed by non-Indigenous concepts of health, healing and care delivery,” says lead author, Flinders University PhD candidate Sarah Fraser.

“The disjuncture between Western biomedical and Indigenous healthcare paradigms negatively impacts the delivery of care.”

 Burns care is an important but not isolated example, Ms Fraser says.

“The current power imbalance in favour of the scientific approaches to burns care extenuates the issue and constructive action is required to address this inequity.”

Starting with care provisions in remote community clinics, the Coolamon project led by UNSW Professor Rebecca Ivers from the George Institute seeks to understand the gaps in care and bring better understandings of cultural and social requirements into major metropolitan burns units.

“Emergency and trauma settings, including burns units, are critical for provision of appropriate care for life-threatening injuries and rehabilitation afterwards,” she said.

“However, care delivered needs to be holistic, and better address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.”

“Addressing these issues is a critical means by which acute care services can address broader issues of quality and safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and meet the national standards of care set by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care,” said Flinders University researcher Dr Tamara Mackean. “Achievement of these standards will contribute to redressing health inequities in relation to childhood burn injuries.”

The latest paper, ‘What informs care? Descriptions by multidisciplinary teams about burns care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’ by S Fraser, J Grant, T Mackean, K Hunter, N Keeler, K Clapham, WJ Teague, T Potokar and RQ Ivers, has been published in the journal Burns (Elsevier). The project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (grant number APP1059038).